Houston Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips keeps upping the ante on the expectations for defensive end J.J. Watt. After only one season, Phillips predicted that Watt's career would result in a Hall of Fame bust. Now, Phillips tells the Houston Chronicle's John McClain that Watt's 2013 season was the best he's ever seen by a defensive lineman.
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The statement begs two immediate questions: How many great seasons has Phillips witnessed? And is it hyperbole?
Phillips began his NFL coaching career as the defensive line coach for his father's "Luv Ya Blue" Houston Oilers of the 1970s, featuring Hall of Famers Elvin Bethea and Curley Culp at defensive end and nose tackle, respectively. Bethea still owns the franchise's unofficial record for career sacks (105).
If Bethea and Culp don't strike your fancy, try this on for size: Phillips coached both Bruce Smith and Reggie White, Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, on the NFL's all-time sacks leaders list. White tallied a whopping 57 sacks in three seasons with Phillips as coordinator, including an eye-popping 21 in 12 games during the strike-shortened season of 1987.
On pass rushing alone, White has the edge. Watt totaled 20.5 sacks over a full 16-game season. Expand it to overall impact, though, and Watt was the more disruptive force.
Watt obliterated the unofficial NFL records for batted passes (16) and defeats (56) -- 11 more than the previous record held by Ray Lewis in 1999. Pro Football Focus credited Watt with 72 total stops -- 18 more than the next-closest lineman. According to Advanced NFL Stats, Watt's 39 tackles for loss were 21 more than second-place Geno Atkins' 18.
You get the picture. Watt was in a league of his own. My film studies showed Watt to be the NFL's best player last season.
Imagine how much more dominant Watt could be in 2013 now that he's not playing with an elbow that had all of the ligaments torn.